Remote work has become accepted and for some organizations, it’s here to stay. As workers navigate the transition from working in person to working at home, new challenges arise with the adjustment, especially for those starting their own businesses.
Her Connection Hub, Bellingham’s first women's coworking space, aims to remove those challenges. It’s dedicated to women who find themselves unable to prioritize their focus on work or business due to distractions that arise when working from home.
“Women typically are not used to walking into places and really feeling that they are the most important thing in the world,” said Rebecca Jancic, manager of Her Connection Hub. “And when you walk in our doors, that’s truly the feeling and the experience that people express the most.”
Jancic said the space was made to help women organically network and build professional relationships with other women. Here, they can work alongside each other, collaborate and offer help or ask for advice when needed.
She explained that as a member of a coworking space, people can access a much larger variety of industries that can be difficult to find on their own or in a traditional work environment and that having the ability to educate oneself through these connections is invaluable.
Madeline Hornung, founder of MadSavvy VA, shared that when she first moved to Bellingham, she didn’t have many connections and was at the beginning stages of starting her virtual assistant outsourcing business. As she walked through Her Connections Hub’s doors, she immediately felt welcomed and was warmly invited in.
“It feels like a comfortable home space,” Hornung said. “I'm able to sit and brainstorm with other people who are there, and it just feels like a community. If I need help or have a question and need to pull an audience, I’m able to get those answers right away because I have those people working there with me.”
Hornung says the monthly networking events hosted by the space contribute greatly to fostering a community. They take a relationship-first approach to avoid making connections that may feel transactional. She’s amazed at seeing the collaborations that come out of the space between people who got to know each other on a personal level first.
Dr. Brett Kuwada, professor of psychology at Everett Community College, teaches a course on Living and Working in a Diverse Society. He agrees that having the ability to be a part of a coworking space is a powerful tool for growing a business. He says the conversational energy of the space alone can also inspire creativity and stimulate a divergent thinking process, as people can bounce ideas off each other and further their productivity.
Understanding that there’s a periodic need to work independently, Her Connection Hub offers conference areas and office spaces that members can reserve for a few hours at a time to focus on particular tasks or conduct meetings. Hornung now rents a private office at Her Connection Hub, where her business continues to flourish.
“I really enjoy it because I am someone who loves to chat and be able to network, and I do need those [quiet moments] where I can close the door and just be able to work,” Hornung said. “I have my dedicated space where I can just go put my head down and do what I have to do, but I still know that [the] community piece is still out there, and I can join back in at any moment.”
Jancic says the concept of coworking is still very new. She regularly consults with women to identify the benefits and impacts coworking can have on their personal career goals.
“Once we have those conversations, it’s usually pretty easy for people to say, ‘Oh yeah, this is absolutely going to benefit me,’” Jancic said.
However, Kuwada explained that coworking may raise issues for people who experience social anxiety. The space may feel competitive or intimidating when working alongside others who are farther along in their careers and businesses.
Her Connection Hub acknowledges that these feelings can occur and actively works to propagate community above everything else.
“Having this space for women to come and grow together and really focus on collaboration over competition, that is going to help the community as a whole,” Jancic said.
In terms of determining whether a coworking space is right for you, Kuwada suggests people reflect on their own experiences and see if working in a collective space with a lot of people around is comfortable for them.
“Look at your own personal history, get a good sense of where you’ve been successful in the past and then check it out and see how it feels for you and be honest with yourself,” Kuwada said.
Jancic shared that the community’s overall response to Her Connection Hub and their experiences in the space have been very positive.
“Building community is one of our passions and really at the core,” Jancic said. “We like to say people come for coworking and stay for the community.”
Janet Lopez (she/her) is a city life reporter for The Front. She is majoring in marketing with a concentration in public relations. Her work is focused on lifestyle, upcoming events and sharing fun little stories about Bellingham that you might not have known otherwise.
You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.